Head and shoulders from a colossus of Ramesses II
New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Ramesses II
Findspot: Egypt, Bubastis, Great temple of Bastet, first hall
Overall: 137 x 100.3 cm, 2041.2 kg, 82.6 cm (53 15/16 x 39 1/2 in., 4500 lb., 32 1/2 in.) Mount: 152.4 x 82.9 cm (60 x 32 5/8 in.) Block (wooden skirt (4-sides+2 top half-decks)): 163.2 x 103.5 cm (64 1/4 x 40 3/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
Ramesses II, also known as Ramesses the Great, ruled for sixty-seven years. Early in his reign he distinguished himself in battle, but he is best known as having been a builder and patron of the arts. Innumerable buildings and statues, such as his mortuary temple in western Thebes (the Ramesseum), the Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak (which he completed), and above all, the famed rock-cut temple at Abu Simbel with its four colossal seated figures of the king, attest to his taste for gargantuan display.
Ramesses’ penchant for grandeur is well repre-sented by this colossal bust of the king in red granite. Large as it is now, it is only a fragment. The complete statue was three times bigger, about nine feet tall. Enough remains to show that the king was represented standing, holding a pole or standard topped with an image of a deity along his left side. This type of statue first appeared in the reign of Amenemhat III but was most fashionable under Dynasties 19 and 20.
This great statue did not stand alone, but was part of an ensemble. Found with it were fragments of three others now in Cairo, London, and Berlin. Such large statues are inconceivable without an architectural framework, and indeed they were commissioned as part of the building program of a temple. They were not to be viewed in isolation, but rather were arranged around a great courtyard or along a processional way. Granite was a precious commodity in the Delta, and colossal statues like this one were highly prized. When a temple was remodeled, the statues were readapted to the new space. Sometimes they traveled. It is possible that this statue and its companions originally stood in Ramesses II’s Delta capital at Qantir and were taken to Bubastis only in Dynasty 22. Great state temples were like museums, populated with statues of different periods. Today, Bubastis is a field of ruins. Its surviving fragments enable us to form an idea of its former grandeur.
From Bubastis, great temple of Bastet. 1887–88: excavated by Edouard Naville for the Egypt Exploration Fund; awarded to the Egypt Exploration Fund by the government of Egypt; April 12, 1888, presented to the MFA at the Sixth Annual General Meeting of the Egypt Exploration Fund, through the Reverend W. C. Winslow. (Accession date: April 12, 1889)
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